by Manuel Cereijo

It is a concern in the scientific community the proliferation of RF weapon technologies. Compact explosive driven RF munitions can be used against a variety of targets including land mines, sea skimming missiles, and Telecommunications Systems. The Soviet Union had a large diverse RF weapons program and remnants of this work continue today within FSU countries and Cuba.

We should also be interested in RF weapon technologies because of:

  • Rapid advances in RF sources and antennas
  • Increased interest in other countries (including Cuba) in RF weapons and RF mitigation
  • Increased susceptibility to microwaves of miniature solid state electronics
  • It is well understood that the US is disproportionately more vulnerable to RF attacks than are less developed nations
  • Modern Metal Oxide Semiconductor technology, on which most of our critical national infrastructures depend, unless deliberately protected or hardened, is extremely vulnerable to even low-power electromagnetic pulses.

State of the art semiconductors are becoming more vulnerable to the effects of radio frequency energy as semiconductors become smaller and smaller. The devices melt as a result of heating from currents induced by the RF pulse. High power microwave, HPM, sources produce short, very high power, narrow band pulses, often billions of watts in billionths of a second (nanoseconds). If HPM waveforms are in band, they can efficiently couple energy into target and energy is available to disrupt or to cause damage to sensitive "front door" components that are connected to antennas.

However, if HPM are not in band, the energy must enter through a "back door" and coupling to the target is generally poor. Ultra wideband, UWB, sources generates a much wider band of frequencies and thus ensure that some energy is at a frequency to efficiently couple to the target. This area of UWB has been aggressively researched by China and Cuba.

Two recent technologies have minimized the size of these devices. They are now quite compact and can be powered by small hand-carried energy sources. They can penetrate up to 200 meters with an accuracy of 1% of the distance, and up to 1000 meters with a lower resolution. RADAN is a compact high current electron accelerator that is smaller than an attaché case, weighs approximately 10 pounds and can be used as a "jammer", or as a computer destructive device, with a properly installed small directional antenna.

Any wire or electronic component is, in fact, an unintended antenna. Appropriate RF signals can target computers and influence or destroy the computer's performance. Besides the technologies mentioned above, we also have low energy radio frequency, LERF, which in spite of using much less energy can be as effective as HPM. The impact of LERF on computers and computer networks can be devastating. They are cheaper (some $800 dollars), need less high technology, and even a limited attack could have serious consequences.

The risk presented by radio frequency weapons is growing. Intelligent sources suspect that China and Cuba are working in these areas in two places in Cuba: Wajay, near Bejucal and Guines, and in an isolated farm near Santiago de Cuba.

Manuel Cereijo
May 2001

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